The other weekend – December 13th to be precise – was my planned time for brewing up Hump’s Bitter. That Saturday, unfortunately, I was struck with a nasty stomach bug – sharp cramps in my lower abdomen mainly.

My wife had a photo-shoot, so my son and I hung out around the house. After laying on the couch for a little bit, hoping the discomfort would pass, it finally faded to a point where I could get up and brew. I brewed, heroically dismissing the torturous pain, because I knew that I would not get another such day to brew until after Christmas – probably not until 2009.

Unlike my past several batches, nothing went wrong. Everything seemed to go almost perfectly. There was one bummer for the day: my digital thermometer got screwed up again. This has happened to two digital thermometers before. The moisture gets into places in the digital probe that aren’t adequately sealed and short something. The result is that the thermometer reads about 10-20 degrees high. Unfortunately, I am not 100% certain when this happened. Judging from the efficiency I got (typical – ~70%) and from the vigor of fermentation, I am guessing that everything went well and that the thermometer didn’t start acting up until after the critical temperature reads for the mash saccharification rest. So, assuming that the awry digital thermometer didn’t completely ruin the mash, everything went smoothly. We should have a delicious English Special Bitter on our hands any day now (there was still a big floating yeast cake on the beer last time I looked – which was a couple of days ago). It isn’t as easy to check on regularly because it is in an opaque plastic bucket instead of in a glass carboy. Unfortunately, both of my six-gallon carboys were in use when it came time to pitch the yeast for this latest batch.

One of the carboys was full of wine – a red wine made from 2007 Australian Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. I bottled the wine last Monday (12/22), so I have a case of wine in the basement, waiting for my wife to no longer be pregnant (since she is the main consumer of vino in this household – at least when she’s not preggers).

So the batch went okay. My stomach cramps didn’t completely disappear but did lessen in intensitiy. The next day I felt much better, so the whole family went up into the city (i.e. Atlanta) to take our son Will to see Santa Claus, to do some last minute Christmas shopping (at the Georgia Tech bookstore/gift shop of course), and to try out a new restaurant/bar: The Porter Beer Bar in Little Five.

I had read about the Porter in a mailing list (Ale Atlanta). I had heard it was a nice place that combined favorable elements of some of the best beer destinations in Atlanta: Five Seasons Brewing and The Brick Store Pub.

I more recently saw an article that discussed new “gastro-pubs” in Atlanta. The most notable two until recently were TAP in midtown and Holeman & Finch Public House in Buckhead. We now have three relatively new ones to add to Atlanta’s repertoire: The Porter Beer Bar of course, The Bookhouse Pub, and The Bureau.

As it turns out, the owners/operators of The Porter have served me and my wife before. One was the sous chef and the other our server at Seeger’s on an anniversary dinner in 2005. Seeger’s was a fancy-schmancy restaurant whose head chef, Gunther Seeger, first earned The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead its five-star rating. By all accounts, Gunther is an asshole, and his restaurant was closed after some shady dealings – tax evasion I think… One year later, Malin and I celebrated our anniversary at Quinones – the nicest and best damn restaurant in all of Atlanta. Again, the sous chef and our server were coincidentally the same couple as at Seeger’s. So when I read in that article about The Porter that the operators used to work at Seeger’s, I went to my Quinones menu from 2006 (yes, I still have a copy – it was that good). Sure enough, the sous chef’s name on the menu matched that of the chef at The Porter: Nicholas Rutherford.

So we chose The Porter as the first of these three new places to visit. The three of us split a couple of appetizers (brandade, hushpuppies) and a single entree (shrimp and grits). The food was good. The brandade was a bit too salty I think, but the hushpuppies were to die for, and the shrimp and grits were excellent as well. They also had Sweetwater’s first “dank tank” creation on draft: Creeper – a highly hopped and bitter Belgian Tripel. Unfortunately, I didn’t eat a whole lot because my stomach started to act up again, and I lost my appetite. But I did try everything, and remember everything being tasty. We didn’t actually see Molly – I doubt she would remember us from Quinones or Seeger’s. And we wouldn’t know what Nick looks like since he was in the kitchen during those two evenings on which we ate his food.

Our next stop of the three will probably be The Bureau. The chef there used to work at Babbo in New York (one of Mario Batali’s restaurants). Malin and I ate there during a trip to New York over two years ago, and it was absolutely amazing. That is one menu that I really wish I had saved but unfortunately did not. So we’re interested to see what sort of chops Chef Clark learned at Babbo and how they translate into gastropub fare.